THUNDER BAY – Peru’s government has provoked fury from indigenous groups after it was discovered that it is attempting to explore for gas in an Amazon reserve despite explicitly promising never to do so.
The reserve is the territory of several vulnerable uncontacted tribes, and a crucial buffer zone for the Manu National Park, listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site for having a biological diversity that ‘exceeds any other place on Earth.’
After visiting the Manu region Mick Jagger was made an Environmental Ambassador by Peru, who described him as a ‘great support in our fight to protect our ecology’. Survival International has written to him, saying ‘Peru’s last uncontacted tribes are in imminent danger… please ask the Peruvian government to stop endangering their lives.’
Peru’s plan to expand its massive Camisea gas project has been clouded in secrecy. Nine years ago it confirmed it would never expand the project eastward into the Nahua-Nanti Reserve, home to several uncontacted tribes, and passed a Supreme Decree confirming the pledge.
But the government has now reportedly created a new exploration block in the reserve for state oil firm PetroPeru, and Survival has received information that it is trying to revoke the Decree. Ironically, the new block is named Fitzcarrald – after the rubber baron whose activities in the region a century ago contributed to the deaths of thousands of Indians from epidemics and mistreatment.
And in a twist of fate, in 1982 Mick Jagger was due to star in Werner Herzog’s film Fitzcarraldo about the rubber baron, before being replaced, and filmed several scenes in the Peruvian Amazon.
In a letter to Survival, Peru’s vice-Minister for Culture, whose ministry is responsible for indigenous affairs, pledged to protect isolated Indian groups. But neither the Energy Ministry, nor PetroPeru, responded to Survival’s enquiries.
Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said today, ‘It’s ironic Peru’s newest gas project takes a name that epitomises the reckless plunder of indigenous land. Peru should stop and remind itself why these areas are protected, and Mick Jagger should use his honorary title to demand some answers.’
Survival has written to Sir Mick Jagger appealing for his help .
Peru’s 2003 Supreme Decree prohibits any new development of natural resources inside the Nahua-Nanti Reserve. It was agreed after the Inter-American Development Bank loaned Peru $135 million for the Camisea project. If Peru revokes the Decree, it will break the conditions of the loan.